February 24, 2010

Summer Camp Costs

Filed under: budgets,children,debt,family,money — by elysianconfusion @ 5:22 pm
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Ahh childcare. I want my kids to have a good summer. I want them to do and learn fun things, and I think they’ll be happy at camp. Last year we had a babysitter for the summer, and that was great but…

I don’t like having people in my house every day. I didn’t like having to tell her what to do to keep the kids out of my hair (one of the burdens of working at home I suppose). I didn’t like not knowing what they did when they weren’t here (how much tv did they watch? I have no idea).  And they got almost no playtime with other kids. So this year we’re thinking camp. Unfortunately for me, this really kills our budget.

1) Camp costs at least 200$ per week per child.

2) Many camps don’t have full programs for 4 year olds.

3) Camps seem to require payment before the program begins, which means I need at least 3k by June 1 for summer costs.

4) I have to figure it out now to make sure we have a spot.

5) The sessions seem to be typically for two weeks, and you pay for both even if you don’t go to both. So either I keep them home for a week and go on vacation for a week, or I pay for two weeks and only use one (I don’t want to do that).

6) It’s really hard to find comprehensive summer camp information for the area, and it’s impossible to search on things I want to know (price, minimum age, hours). I don’t even want to look at the camp unless they take both kids. Otherwise I’ll spend all my time driving them to and from and won’t get any work done.

So although of course I knew I’d have summer childcare costs, I somehow didn’t realize that I had to pay for them before sending the kids for a single day. I’ve been redoing my budget to try figure out how to get everything paid in cash and on time. The worst thing about that, really, is that I can’t think of any way to do it without (temporarily) cutting back on my snowball. I’m really disappointed about that.

I think I can get it all worked out and make sure I have enough to prepay preschool (saving 400$ in interest I’d pay taking the monthly payment plan) in August. So it’s basically six months of lowered snowball payments (I think they’ll be 379$ extra going to debt a month, but I’d sorta been planning on 719, which would have paid off a credit card in the next twelve months. (Can you hear the big sigh??) And I’d just calculated a new emergency fund goal of $6,000 and started my own little snowflake spreadsheet to keep track of everything and hopefully ramp this stuff up a bit!

Well, I guess I’ll see what I can do with what I’ve got… maybe I can find more corners to cut in our budget and push a little hard on the EF and snowball. (Although my husband was just complaining about how tight the budget was last night — and I think we waste lots of money! I guess we need to sit down and look at everything we spend — I do this all the time and he pretty much never does. Two posts at Get Rich Slowly made me think we need to work on this: What Marriage Has Taught Me About Money and Money Without Matrimony (even though we’re married and heterosexual, sounds like a good book!))


February 15, 2010

Spreadsheets RULE

Filed under: budgets,children,debt,family,insurance,money — by elysianconfusion @ 5:26 pm
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Where would I be without spreadsheets? I use them for my budget, for my debt snowball, to plan how much I need in my emergency fund, and to track my escrowed savings. I’ve gotten a lot more adept at calculations in Excel. My latest addition to this is a new checking account at ING Direct.

Partly this is because I had savings there already (at 1.2% a much better rate than my credit union) and they said if I opened a checking account I’d get .25% interest and a $50 bonus if I made three signed purchases (not debit) in the first 45 days. I have two savings account, one for items I escrow and another for my emergency fund. It’s nice to have this separate from my other accounts, it makes it harder to spend the money.

My escrowed funds include money for:

  • Preschool tuition/deposits ($1500 deposit!)
  • Oil and wood for home heating and propane for hot water
  • Real-estate taxes
  • Christmas fund
  • Vacation fund
  • Home insurance

That’s been going pretty well. And it makes me feel a lot better. As I play it out, I always have enough to pay what’s necessary, with a little cushion.

Now that I have a checking account too, though, I am also trying to take control of some of the budget line items that are hard to plan for with precision. I hope this makes it easier.

  • Household (includes minor home repairs, paint, shelves)
  • Car repairs (includes inspections, maintenance)
  • Clothing
  • Medical (I get flex spending back for this, but it’s nice to have money planned to pay for it)
  • Father’s insurance (I pay once every three months or so)
  • Gifts (hopefully this will help with months that require more gifts — why does everyone have their birthday at the same time?)

This is experimental, but the checking account has already helped me — I paid my propane bill directly instead of having to transfer money back and forth. I’m hopeful! I wonder if I can get a spreadsheet to make me better at snowflaking?

February 13, 2010

Owning Your Mistakes

Filed under: budgets,crazy,debt,mess,money — by elysianconfusion @ 3:30 pm
Tags: , , ,

Now I’m going to do something I dread doing, even though no one actually reads this blog. I’m going to put out the numbers for the debt and the interest rates.

Ready? And yes, I know it’s awful.

Debt Amount Rate Month Paid Off
Visa $9,018.87 8.5% February 2011
Bank of America $9,474.75 9.9% November 2011
Upromise $16,672.85 11.15% September 2012
Citi $17,566.20 9.15% March 2013
Car #1 $9,538.98 4.7% June 2012
Car #2 $11,978.64 2.9% May 2013
Home Equity Variable $18,468.68 4.0% August 2013
Home Equity Fixed $63,920.19 6.5% February 2015
Student Loan $20,712.83 2.9% June 2015
Mortgage $194,710.36 3.5% November 2018

So, scary though that might be, here’s something scarier. If we had no snowball plan? Last debt paid off March 2034. And total interest without a snowball $153,130.50. OMG! With my current plan we pay almost $80,000 less in interest. That… that is just mindblowing. We may not pay it back in exactly the order listed…. We know paying the avalanche method would save us about 2k. But it would also take us a year and seven months to pay off the next bill. That’s not much progress (and talk about delayed gratification). And with this plan we’ll have paid our house off in 17 years (instead of 30) and we’ll be under 50 with no debt.

Also, for those thinking why the f*** do they have two car payments, believe me, we tried to figure out how to get rid of them. Basically we could sell our cars for a very slight profit (or possible loss) and then we’d have to go find and somehow pay for two replacement cars that were safe for the kids. If we find a time when we can just sell one or the other (or both) and get a reasonable replacement, we will do that.

Anyway, that’s where we’re at. However, I do think we’ll spend less time getting out of this hole than we took going in! And maybe we’ll get to shave some time off this plan if we get bonuses, dividends, and stop paying for childcare (eventually that *will* happen and that will add another $1,050 to our monthly snowball (currently at $659) and cut our debt much faster).

February 12, 2010

Kicking it to the Curb

YES! Just paid off the second credit card. There’s progress! I’m still working on Matt’s 75%/25% plan, I haven’t actually managed to incorporate that yet.

April 20, 2009: $403,438.14

February 12, 2010: $372,062.35

Difference: 31,375.79

Yes, that’s 9,044.92 down from last month.

How? We used the largest portion of my husband’s bonus to pay down debt. We also got a few things (the snow blower and an HTPC — which is totally worth the $325 or so we spent — we do not pay for cable, so everything is either online or via Netflix ). We also used our tax refund towards debt reduction.

However… and I seriously understand why this might have been a mistake… we also bought stock in my husband’s (privately held) company. Here’s the logic:

1) We’ve always wanted to buy stock but our finances were too muddled to do it.

2) We believe in the company, my husband has been there 15+ years.

3) It will pay dividends which we can use toward debt.

4) We think it will have a higher return than paying off debt.

Is it a mistake? Maybe. We also have funds there via profit-sharing (company contributes on his behalf). You’re not supposed to put all your eggs in one basket, I know. But it’s medical software, which has done pretty well even in this recession, and there are a lot of new requirements out there for hospitals and health care providers. The company is growing (yes, hiring!) and having stock also looks good for him with the company. The money is semi-liquid — he can sell it back if necessary and we’ll get a better return on it than in any checking or savings account.

Is it still a mistake? I don’t know. We’re looking at it as savings and our reward for paying off two credit cards. And in my fancy spreadsheet it only changes the dates by a couple of months…

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